In the above document, authors link the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774. Although we have discussed the aftermath of the fall of New France, I will repeat that the citizens of the Thirteen Colonies started to rush west to settle the territory ceded by France to Britain. Some had land grants. However, the territory they wished to appropriate was land where Amerindians had lived mostly undisturbed under the French régime. New York Governor Jeffery Amherst allowed the use of smallpox-laced blankets to create an epidemic that could exterminate Amerindians who had no immunity to this European curse. Ottawa Chief Pontiac and allies attacked the encroaching settlers. The violence was such that King George III of England issued his Royal Proclamation of 1763, thereby creating a large Amerindian reserve. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was considered an “intolerable act” by future Americans. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is Canada’s Amerindians’s “Magna Carta.”
Given Canada’s inauspicious climate, the French needed Amerindians. During the winter of 1535-1536, twenty-five of Jacques Cartier‘s (1491-1557) 110 men died of scurvy. Others were saved because Amerindians provided annedda (thuya occidentalis). In 1609, Champlain (1557-1635) fired at Iroquois to show that the French supported the Huron-Wendat nation. Moreover, the French, the legendary voyageurs, could not have engaged in the fur trade without the Ameridians’s canoe and their guidance.
The following quotations are revealing:
In 1633 and 1635, the Huron-Wendat were asked by Champlain and Father Paul Le Jeune, S. J. to consider intermarriage with the French. The Huron-Wendat rejected this request because they considered marriage a matter between two individuals and their families, and not subject to council decision.(See Huron-Wendat, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
[a]t the time of the destruction of the Huron-Wendat homeland (sometimes known as Huronia) by the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois], in 1649-1650, about 500 Huron-Wendat left Georgian Bay to seek refuge close to the French, in the Quebec City region.(See Huron-Wendat, The Canadian Encyclopedia)
The Quebec act of 1774
- The Quebec Act of 1774 did not revoke the rights and privileges granted Amerindians by virtue of the Proclamation of 1763.
- However, the Quebec Act of 1774 revoked policies aimed to assimilate the French living in a defeated New France.
Although the Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized the rights and privileges of Amerindians, it also aimed to assimilate the French in Canada. Governor James Murray had not implemented policies aimed to assimilate the French. As for Governor Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester, he revoked such policies.
Guy Carleton met Seigneurs and the clergy of the former New France to negotiate the Quebec Act of 1774. New France’s Seigneurial System and Code Civil were restored. So was Catholicism and the clergy’s right to levy tithe. The oath of allegiance French-speaking subjects had to swear in order to hold public office did not entail abandoning Catholicism, and French-speaking subjects were allowed to own property. The Quebec Act also enlarged the Province of Quebec. It included the Ohio Country.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 & the Quebec Act of 1774
Both the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 were considered “intolerable acts” by the citizens of the Thirteen Colonies. Furthermore, the Quebec Act did not please “habitants.” Yet, the Quebec Act of 1774 would be French-language Canada’s “letters patent,” and it is mostly in this regard, that the Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 can be associated.
“In French Canada the act was received without any popular demonstration by the French Canadians. On the whole the Quebec Act satisfied only the upper class French Canadians. The lower class found nothing in the Quebec Act to cheer about. The habitant had mixed feelings about it, for while it gave him security of his language and religion it also revived certain objectionable feudal privileges of the seigneurs. The habitant disliked the governor’s defence measures which involved forced labour and the requisitioning of supplies and the prospect that he might be forced into the army.”
(See The Royal Proclamation of 1763 The Quebec Act of 1774 (uppercanadahistory.ca)
“Of great importance to Canadian history was the fact that the Act meant the province of Quebec was being treated in a special way by an imperial act of parliament.”
The findings of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Bicultularism, (1963-1969) (Commission royale d’enquête sur le bilinguisme et le biculturalisme) led to the passage of the Official Languages Act of 1969. French was confirmed as one of the two official languages of Canada. The Quebec Act of 1774 was a precious precedent.
As we have seen in previous posts, after Confederation (1867), the Dominion of Canada failed to recognize the culture and language of the nations on whose land they settled. Canada now remembers the Royal Proclamation of 1763. As for the French-speaking citizens of a Confederated Canada, Quebec would be the only province of Canada where children could be educated in both French and English. Yet, the French also had rights. The Quebec Act of 1774 constituted its “letters patent.”
We cannot tell whether French would be an everyday language in several and perhaps all the provinces of Canada, but it is obvious that Amerindians were wronged. Canada’s government has compensated the victims of Residential Schools and it has put into place a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to ascertain that Canada’s indigenous people are never subjected to assimilation policies leading to abuse and death. These crimes were a sign of the times, but we are unearthing the remains of children buried in unnamed graves. It is very painful.
Fortunately, Governors James Murray and Sir Guy Carleton did not see why Britain’s French-speaking subjects should be assimilated. Moreover, there have always been Canadians who have recognized the French. One of them is Sir Charles G. D. Roberts who translated Aubert de Gaspé’s Les Anciens Canadiens twice, as Canadians of Old, in 1890, and as Cameron of Lochiel, in 1905. He was one of four Confederation poets, a name they were given, who could see two literatures growing side by side and rooted in two advanced literatures and cultures. There were and there would be tensions, but seeing promise seems the sunnier attitude.
In the Preface to his first translation of Les Anciens Canadiens as Canadians of Old, Sir Charles G. D. Roberts wrote the following:
“In Canada there is settling into shape a nation of two races; there is springing into existence, at the same time, a literature in two languages. In the matter of strength and stamina there is no overwhelming disparity between the two races. The two languages are admittedly those to which belong the supreme literary achievements of the modern world. In this dual character of the Canadian people and the Canadian literature there is afforded a series of problems which the future will be taxed to solve. To make any intelligent forecast as to the solution is hardly possible without a fair comprehension of the two races as they appear at the point of contact. To make any intelligent forecast as to the solution is hardly possible without a fair comprehension of the two races as they appear at the point of contact. We, of English speech, turn naturally to French-Canadian literature for knowledge of the French-Canadian people. The romance before us, while intended for those who read to be entertained, and by no means weighted down with didactic purpose, succeeds in throwing, by its faithful depictions of life and sentiment among the early French Canadians, a strong side-light upon the motives and aspirations of the race.”
Preface to the first edition
Sources and Resources
Wikipedia, The Canadian Encyclopedia, & Britannica
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 The Quebec Act of 1774 (uppercanadahistory.ca)
Les Anciens Canadiens (ebooksgratuits.com). FR
Cameron of Lochiel (Archive.org ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Love to everyone 💕
I thank you for allowing me to be on holiday. It is nearly over.
© Micheline Walker
24 August 2021